Written By: Lew Hamburger
Been angry lately? All you have to do is scan the media and it seems the emotion of the decade. Where’s it coming from? Is it possible that we retain a primal residue from our early mammal days when we faced anything – body, animal, or other – that was different with the question: Can it eat me or do I have to eat it? Are we that afraid of differences? Could be.
I’m far from a student of the complex brain functions, but it does appear from studies over the last decade or so that at times deep brain stem impulses can put us on “amygdala overload,” impairing the pre-frontal executive-administrative brain operations. Luckily, studies also suggest hope, because brain cells continue to grow throughout life and therefore, we can retrain the brain. Anger may not be a “management” issue as much as a “will power” issue. We know what we need to do; sometimes it’s just too damned hard.
Humor can change the way we see threat. It can provide a different platform from which to see the same inconvenience, irritation, or perceived threat. We just need to practice using it.
Mastering humor is not much different than playing football, the violin, dancing, or any other skill. The generally accepted number of repetitions to master a skill is 10,000! So waiting to use humor until the source of anger or surprise is on us is like picking up a violin the first time and expecting to hear Beethoven! Making humor a part of life is no different. Viktor Frankl said “The ability to find the humor side of things is some sort of trick learned while mastering the art of living.” So think ahead; make seeing humor a daily practice. It can help you stay calm when things seem nuts around you.
Early in life the name Hamburger presented a choice: be angry at the stupid jokes and teasing, or find the humor in the mess. Probably the wackiest Hamburger saga came years later when our son the drummer, then in high school, barged into our bedroom at 2 a.m. and announced, “You guys have to hear this.” It was clear after a minute that it was easier to listen NOW—at 2 a.m.—than to try to talk him into waiting until the next day. And this is the tale.
Andy’s grades were good enough, but he sort of loaned his body to school. He played with a talented group of kids in a bicentennial tribute to America through song and dance. A few of those kids made Broadway, and Harolyn Blackwell sings with the Met. They played 150-200 gigs a year in venues from hotel conventions in the D.C. area to Disney World, the Kennedy Center, and the White House. But that wasn’t all for our son the entrepreneur. After school he landed a job at Andy’s Dog House, a hotdog stand at a mall outside Washington—a franchise that just happened to include his first name. When he had a gig with the group he called his f““friend Robert to fill in at the Dog House.
On that day, he called Robert mid-morning. Robert’s Mom answered the phone and the cconversation went somewhat as follows:
“Hi Mrs. Jones, is Robert there?”
“No, and you guys have to stop calling; I can’t get anything done.” And she hung up.
He tried again. “Mrs. Jones, please don’t hang up, Robert expects my calls. It’s Andy from Andy’s Dog House.”
“I don’t care if it’s the Pope from Rome, I’m busy.” And she hung up.
Nonplussed, Andy tried again. “Mrs. Jones, please don’t hang up, I really need Robert.”
“Well, he’s not here and how dumb do you guys think I am? Andy’s Dog House is a franchise. There’s no Andy at Andy’s Dog House. If you’re Andy from Andy’s Dog House, WHAT’S YOUR LAST NAME?”
To which Andy responded, “Mrs. Jones, if you don’t think there’s an Andy at Andy’s Dog House, you’re NEVER goin’ to believe what I tell you now.” (After all, his name IS Hamburger!)
We fell out of bed laughing.
Maybe these things happen only in the wee hours, but I suggest you start practicing; the laughs and lack of anger are worth the effort.
Leave a message for Dr. Lew below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: anger, emotion, humor side
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